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Choosing Alcohol Treatment

What to Look for in an Alcohol Rehab Program


Choosing a Drug Treatment Program

When evaluating one of the many types of alcohol treatment programs, remember that everyone’s needs are different. In general, the longer and more intense the alcohol use, the longer and more intense the treatment you may need.

Regardless of a program’s length in weeks or months, support and long-term follow-up are crucial to recovery. A quality treatment program not only addresses the problem drinking, but it also addresses the emotional pain and other life problems that contribute to your drinking.

What to look for in an alcohol treatment program

When you start looking for alcohol treatment, you may see advertisements for programs in tranquil settings with gorgeous views. While amenities like that are nice to have, they probably come with a big price tag. Focus on what is truly important: appropriate licensing, quality of care during the program, follow-up services, and staff credentials. Things to check include:

  • Program accreditation and licensing. Make sure the treatment program is accredited by the state it’s in. Also check to ensure that the program is run by licensed, well-trained mental health professionals and addiction specialists.
  • The effectiveness of the program's treatment methods. Treatment centers should have at least some statistics on their success rates, preferably from an objective outside agency.
  • Type of aftercare services to prevent relapse. Is there a well-run aftercare program? Does it provide referrals to other recovery services and support groups in the community? Also make sure that a staff member will collaborate with you to create a discharge plan before you leave the program.

An overview of alcohol treatment programs

Types of alcohol treatment programs

Residential treatment - Residential treatment involves living at a treatment facility while undergoing intensive treatment during the day. Residential treatment normally lasts from 30-90 days.

Partial hospitalization - Partial hospitalization is for people who require ongoing medical monitoring but have a stable living situation. These treatment programs usually meet at the hospital for 3-5 days a week, 4-6 hours per day.

Intensive outpatient program (IOP) - Not a live-in treatment program, but it still requires a major time commitment. Intensive outpatient programs usually meet at least 3 days a week for 2-4 hours a day or more. The major focus is relapse prevention. These outpatient programs are often scheduled around work or school.

Counseling (Individual, Group, or Family) - Works best in conjunction with other types of treatment or as follow-up support. Therapy can help you identify the root causes of your alcohol use, repair your relationships, and learn healthier coping skills.

Sober living - Normally follows intensive treatment like residential treatment. You live with other recovering alcoholics and addicts in a supportive alcohol- and drug-free environment. Sober living facilities are useful if you have nowhere to go or you’re worried that returning home too soon will lead to relapse.

Brief intervention - Only appropriate for those at risk for alcohol abuse or alcoholism, not those who have already developed a serious problem. Consists of several visits to a healthcare professional to discuss the harmful effects of alcohol abuse and strategies for cutting back.

Finding an alcohol treatment program in the U.S.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers an extensive listing of licensed, certified drug and alcohol treatment facilities. You can access the database in two ways:

  • Use SAMHSA's Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator to search online.
  • Call the referral helpline operated by SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment:
    • 1-800-662-HELP
    • 1-800-662-9832 (Español)
    • 1-800-228-0427 (TDD)

Another place to look is your State Substance Abuse Agency. States often have their own listings, toll-free hotlines, and information about accreditation. You can also ask your doctor or therapist about programs they recommend.

Finding an alcohol treatment program in other countries

In the UK:

  • Search NHS Support Services for rehab and counseling services in your area.
  • Addaction offers a variety of programs around the country including rehab, one-to-one counseling, and group sessions.

In Australia:

In Canada:

Paying for alcohol treatment in the U.S.

Alcohol treatment costs vary widely depending on your individual treatment needs, your insurance, and the facility. Here are some tips to help you pay for treatment:

  • Check your insurance. If you have health insurance, call the number on the back of your card to ask about your mental health and substance abuse coverage. Find out what your out-of-pocket costs will be, including deductible and co-payment amounts.
  • Look into programs that offer sliding scale or reduced payment options. Check with your state’s substance abuse agency or call SAMHSA’s helpline (1-800-662-HELP) to ask about affordable treatment in your area.

Related Links

Finding alcohol treatment and help

Key Questions to Consider When Selecting a Program (PDF) – Twelve points to consider when choosing an alcohol or drug treatment program. (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment)

Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator – Searchable database for finding private and public alcohol and drug treatment facilities by location. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Find Help Now – A database of more than 11,000 facilities nationwide that offer treatment for alcohol abuse, plus listings of AA and other support meetings. (American Council on Alcoholism)

Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., contributed to this article. Last reviewed: June 2014.

©Helpguide.org. All rights reserved. This reprint is for information only and NOT a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Helpguide.org is an ad-free non-profit resource for supporting better mental health and lifestyle choices for adults and children.

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